Some weeks are just rough. Last week was one of those weeks. At work, it felt like I was put in one situation after another in which I wouldn’t and couldn’t succeed. In my graduate work, it was one overly complicated task after another. The kids I work with were extremely close to seeing me lose my temper.
I was tired. Emotionally, physically, spiritually exhausted.
And for a moment I wondered what would happen if I just stopped caring. Stopped trying so hard to accomplish things that everyone says are impossible. Stopped being such an overachiever. What if I just stopped thinking so much?
But I couldn’t stop caring. Couldn’t stop thinking or worrying or pushing. Because I have seen what it looks like when people stop caring and it looks harsh and apathetic and sad.
The world is a broken place, filled with jagged edges and rough terrain. The sensible thing in a world where we are constantly scraped and bruised is to build up calluses, to let ourselves grow hard, to thicken our skin. It’s the sensible thing to drop all sense of hopeful expectation because we assume that we will be let down. To stop trying to change things that we just know will never change.
But gentleness, like all the virtues, goes directly against all common sense. It looks weak and passive and all the things we are not supposed to be if we want to make it in the world.
But gentleness is much more than passive acceptance. It’s more than refraining from inflicting harm. Gentleness is having the courage to be vulnerable. People who are soft are hurt easily and often. To be gentle is to accept the possibility of heartbreak and failure.
Remaining gentle in this rough and tumble world is perhaps life’s greatest feat of endurance. Gentle people are not soft because they are naive, they are soft because, with quiet determination, they tear off anything that threatens to make them hard. They get angry, they are disappointed, they cry with exhaustion and frustration, but then they wake up in the morning and shed the suffocating scales of envy, bitterness, resentment, fear, and selfish pride. And they face the new day with vigor and hope.
Because gentleness is what allows us to feel- not just what happens in our own heads, but what is happening to the people around us. It keeps us open and free. Gentleness lets us breathe and it breathes life.
So I’ll keep choosing to care and feel and get hurt.
I’ll keep choosing gentleness.